Breaking Down the Storage Virtualization Barriers


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Storage capacity is growing at a rate greater than fifty percent per year, but the ability to manage that storage lags behind. Although the hardware price per gigabyte has plummeted, those savings are easily offset by the added management burden that results from having to cobble together storage systems and devices utilizing proprietary methodologies.

"The many manual tasks and lack of centralized management across server, storage, and operating system platforms adds to the complexity," says Mike Zisman, IBM Corporation's vice president for corporate strategy. "This complexity results in poor IT resource utilization, and problem identification and resolution is often slow, painful, and costly."

To fix these shortcomings, Zisman suggests four aspects of storage for improvement, as covered below. IBM has been researching these points, resulting in greater interoperability, a host of self-managing "autonomic" features, and a new file system that virtualizes distributed devices and scales up to hundreds of servers holding billions of files.

Four-Point Storage Management Upgrade

Zisman lays out the four points required in a major shift in enterprise storage management. First, the storage and IT environments need to be integrated so that it is easy to add storage to meet growing requirements. The second point involves operating on open standards both to integrate with existing infrastructure components as well as to seamlessly incorporate new devices from a variety of vendors. The third element is storage virtualization.

"Virtualization lets you reduce complexity by treating your storage and IT resources as a single common pool of resources," explains Zisman. "This insulates users from the complexity of storage resources and exploits the benefits of storage networks."

Improved disk utilization is one of those benefits. Organizations currently use only about 44 percent to 55 percent of available disk space, according to IBM research numbers. Virtualization allows exploitation of all that potential storage rather than wasting money purchasing more in order to be sure you don't run out of capacity.

Finally, Zisman says that the storage systems, like other computing systems, need to be "autonomic" or self-managing. This breaks down into four elements that occur automatically:

  • Configuration - Adding and/or changing features, servers, and software can take place without bringing the system down. Other parts of the system recognize these changes and adapt accordingly, with minimal human intervention.

  • Self-Healing - The system recognizes a failed component, takes it offline, and repairs or replaces it. For example, if a file becomes corrupted, the system can locate a copy on a mirror site and replace the damaged file. If a server goes down, the system automatically routes traffic to a backup server.

  • Protection - The system monitors who is accessing resources. It blocks and reports any unauthorized access attempts.

  • Optimization - Autonomic systems constantly monitor system conditions and tune storage, databases, networks, and server configurations for peak performance.

Page 2: A SAN-Ready File System

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